When Henry III died in 1272 the building of the Gothic Abbey was not complete and part of the Norman nave remained attached to the new work. The present nave was nearly 150 years in building. It was begun in 1376 by Abbot Nicholas Litlyngton, who financed the work with money left by his predecessor Cardinal Simon Langham. The master mason was the great Henry Yevele, who followed closely the earlier Gothic style of architecture. Flying buttresses on the exterior took the thrust of the walls and enabled the roof to be raised to a height of 101 feet (31 metres). Richard II and Henry V later provided finance to continue the building but it was not finished until 1517, when the west window was glazed.
The choir screen has a monument to Sir Isaac Newton, in an area often referred to as Scientists Corner. Among the famous people buried in the nave are Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Sir Charles Barry, Thomas Telford and Clement Attlee.
The West Window
The present stained glass in the west window dates from 1735. The design is probably by Sir James Thornhill and the work was carried out by the glass-painter William Price. The design shows Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and fourteen prophets. At the base are the coats of arms of King Sebert, Elizabeth I, George II, Dean Wilcocks (the Dean at the time) and the City of Westminster.
Just below this window you find the grave of the Unknown Warrior which commemorates the many thousands killed in the 1914-18 war who have no grave.
The Waterford crystal chandeliers were the gift of the Guinness family for the Abbey's 900th anniversary in 1965.
In front of the votive candle stands are two icons, one depicting Christ and the other showing the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. These were painted by Sergei Federov and installed in 1994. Near the entrance to St George’s chapel (which is set aside for private prayer) is the earliest known contemporary portrait of an English king, Richard II, painted in about 1395. In a case nearby are seven volumes which form the Roll of Honour of the Civilian War Dead 1939-45.
The ancient Coronation Chair has recently been conserved and can now be viewed in St George's chapel.
Just outside the west door is the circular memorial to Innocent Victims of Oppression, Violence and War, dedicated in 1996. Above the west porch are statues of ten modern martyrs, unveiled in 1998 (Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Janani Luwum, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi and Wang Zhiming).
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